What is Diazepam?

Diazepam is a commonly prescribed anti-anxiety medication. People suffering from chronic or high levels of anxiety may find diazepam helps them cope with their disorder, but it can also be addictive and have dangerous side effects.

You can find diazepam in all of the following medications, but Valium is the most recognizable name.


Diazepam affects the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) which helps calm nervous activity. Diazepam works by binding with the GABA receptor. It has several medical purposes, including as an anticonvulsant, an anxiolytic (anti-anxiety), a muscle-relaxant, and a sedative. These different effects occur as diazepam inhibits neural transmission in different areas of the body.

Diazepam is in the benzodiazepine family of pharmaceuticals. Benzodiazepines grew to replace barbiturates as the preferred sedative prescribed because they cause significantly less suppression of breathing. This makes them safer by comparison.

Along with Valium, other well-known benzodiazepines include Xanax and Klonopin. Additionally, several popular sleep aid prescriptions similar to the benzodiazepine family include Ambien and Lunesta.

The biggest differences among each of the benzodiazepines, aside from slight differences in their chemical makeup, is in how quickly they take effect and how long the effects last. Diazepam is among the slower acting/longer lasting of the benzodiazepines.

Diazepam Addiction

Many people using diazepam or other benzodiazepines develop a physical dependence on the drug. In some cases, this can happen even when using the prescribed dosage, especially with high dosage levels or when prescriptions last longer than 60 days.

The exact dosage and time frame at which a diazepam user becomes a diazepam addict will vary from person to person. However, diazepam users will develop a tolerance for the drug which will require dosage changes over time. As dosage increases so does the users dependency on the drug. Eventually, your body will need diazepam just to feel normal. At this point you will have become dependent. Once that happens you will likely have difficulty quitting on your own.

How to Recognize Diazepam Dependence

A diazepam addiction can be difficult to identify because it develops slowly and at a different dosage for each person.


Health Problems Associated with Diazepam Abuse

Lethal Overdose Potential

Because developing a diazepam dependency can happen so quickly and subtly, the danger of an accidental overdose constantly lurks. Although overdosing on diazepam alone rarely leads to death, using diazepam with other substances, especially alcohol, can be lethal. When combined with other drugs, the sedative effects of diazepam can cause the user to stop breathing. One study showed that in Florida alone, in 2012, over 200 deaths were caused by diazepam being used with other substances.

All the drugs in the benzodiazepine group have the potential to be fatal when taken with other drugs. In fact, benzodiazepines were involved with many of the recent celebrity deaths caused by overdose. Whitney Houston, Amy Winehouse, Brittany Murphy, Heath Ledger, Anna Nicole Smith, and Michael Jackson all had at least one kind of benzodiazepine in their respective systems at their times of death (TheStar.com).

Common symptoms associated with diazepam overdose include the following.


If you experience any of these symptoms after taking diazepam, especially a larger than prescribe dose, contact emergency services.


A woman taking diazepam while pregnant can create a dependency upon the drug for her fetus. This can include the fetus experiencing withdrawal symptoms. The breastmilk of users nursing their babies may even contain diazepam.

The elderly will experience more severe withdrawal symptoms. The loss of equilibrium can be so severe it causes falls which result in injury.

Extended Withdrawals

If withdrawals continue for several months, former diazepam users may experience gastrointestinal, neurological, and musculoskeletal problems.

How does diazepam affect the brain?

Along with the sedative effects for which it’s prescribed, diazepam can have some undesired effects on the brain. It can interfere with your memory of recent events, including when and where events occurred. The memory problems may be worse if using alcohol in addition to diazepam.

Taking diazepam or other benzodiazepines for more than a year can lead to problems with seeing spatial relationships and difficulty concentrating.


How does diazepam affect the body?

Diazepam and other benzodiazepines can cause several physical side effects. It will slow your reactions and impair your ability to drive or operate machinery. Additional side effects are listed below. Some of these effects could signal a diazepam overdose, so if you experience any of them while taking diazepam, contact a doctor immediately.


Financial Costs of Diazepam Addiction


According to an article at Slate.com, which cited figures from the National Institute of Mental Health, as far back as 2004, Americans spent $2.1 billion on anti-anxiety medications like Valium and Xanax. That’s just for the drugs themselves. The associated costs can be much higher.

According to a 2014 survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Americans are estimated to spend more than $600 billion each year on issues caused by substance use and an estimated 27 million Americans used illicit drugs.

In 2014, nearly two million Americans used tranquilizers like diazepam either without a prescription or in excess of the prescribed dosage—possibly accounting for as much as $42 billion of the national cost of substance abuse.

Social Problems Associated with Diazepam Dependency

Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem in America. Among the most commonly abused prescription drugs are opioid pain killers and benzodiazepine anti-anxiety medications like diazepam.

Abusing diazepam can be extremely dangerous. It can lead to depression. That depression, combined with the relative ease of taking a lethal dose of the medication when its combined with alcohol, can turn diazepam into both the reason and mechanism by which an abuser commits suicide.

According to The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), over 175,000 emergency department visits involved benzodiazepines in 2011.

Diazepam also impairs driving ability. For a conscientious diazepam user, this could mean lost opportunities for social interaction. For a less scrupulous diazepam dependent, this could lead to legal trouble and/or the injury or death of themselves or others.

As diazepam dependency worsens it can lead you to neglect other aspects of your life. It can cause you to ignore the people close to you, causing relationship problems and even divorce. You could start to let your work slide, limiting your career or possibly losing your job. The financial difficulties could lead you to legal troubles.

With so many possible negative consequences, you can’t afford to ignore the warning signs of diazepam abuse.

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